Everything for the AAPI Arts & Crafts Fair had been set: an ideal outdoor location identified, COVID-19 protocol measured out, and a number of local vendors lined up to participate in conjunction with the annual Small Business Saturday event in the Chinatown-International District (CID.) But when Governor Inslee mandated new statewide restrictions on social gatherings last week, the staff at the Seattle Chinatown-International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda) were forced to cancel. With no time to organize a virtual alternative, SCIDpda’s director of community initiatives Jamie Lee is unsure about what the crafts fair will look like going forward.
“Because of COVID-19, we’ve had to lay off staff so it will be a question of what our workload looks like and whether or not we will have the capacity to host it again. We would love to do it, so if we can, we will. We’ll just have to see,” says Lee. “There is something so valuable about providing a low-barrier platform and space for AAPI creators who are just starting out.”
In non-COVID times, the AAPI Arts & Crafts Fair hosts 15-20 artists and features a live band or DJ as well as door prizes donated by participating vendors. In lieu of an in-person fair this Saturday, Lee is encouraging people to check out Hing Hay Coworks’ social media pages, where each artist will be highlighted along with information around how their goods and artworks can be purchased online. One of Lee’s favorite items from last year was a holiday greeting card illustrated by Cathy Wu that read, ‘‘’tis the season” and depicted a hot pot with all of the fixings.
“[The fair] is a great way to support local artists and to get to know who is trying to get their stuff out there,” says Lee. “And for me, being AAPI myself, the greeting cards really speak to me because they’re not just generic cookie-cutter sentiments. There’s a little bit of a spin.”
Meanwhile, the Small Business Saturday Food Walk — organized by Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Area (CIDBIA) — did go on as planned on November 28 but with some slight adjustments. CIDBIA hoss a number of community events and food walk series throughout the year, drawing people to the district from near and far. Some popular ones include Dragon Fest and Lunar New Year, each of which feature a variety of $3 food items. Similarly, their seasonal food walks offer $2, $4, and $6 options from a rotating list of neighborhood eateries and recur on the third Thursday of each month from April through September.
“The food walk concept doesn’t really change much because of COVID-19,” says Connie Au-Yeung, CIDBIA’s marketing and communications manager. “Our original intention was to design the food walks with takeout in mind. We encourage restaurants to package their food into smaller sizes, making it portable so that you can sample and then move on to the next place.”
The food walks operate much like a miniature food fair. People are invited to come and explore the CID from Little Saigon all the way down to Chinatown and Japantown. Au-Yeung explains that the food walks are a great way to get to know the area while also providing a chance to experience new foods and cuisines inexpensively. Many participating businesses offer exclusive deals and some even create special menu items specifically for the food walks. Normally, CIDBIA staff would normally post up in Hing Hay Park to hand out menus and to make recommendations to visitors, but this will not be the case this year.
People can visit https://www.seattlechinatownid.com/ or @iheartid on Instagram to browse the menus and see all 30+ variations of the food walk. CIDBIA is currently in communication with businesses to let them know that they may need to anticipate an increased number of customers that day and to ensure that social distancing is enforced so that all can enjoy a fun and safe event. Additionally, there is a small business relief fund run by SCIDpda that community members can donate to if they’re unable to attend or take part in these upcoming events. The first 150 people to donate over $150 will receive a neighborhood “box of goodies,” says Lee.
“Businesses in the CID rely very heavily on word-of-mouth so the food walks really allow them to shine. It’s difficult because they’re taking a lot of the brunt right now,” says Au-Yeung. “People really do care about supporting this community. Getting takeout and shopping local and small is just one way to do that.”
Featured artists for the AAPI Arts & Crafts Fair that you can find online and support include those below. All graphics courtesy of each artist’s Instagram page.
Crafty Cherry: etsy.com/shop/cherryiscrafty; Instagram: @CherryIsCrafty